Monday, 22 September 2014

Airline ancillary fees: CJEU rules on legality of baggage fees

The CJEU has delivered its judgment on the case C-487/12 on the legality of additional charges for checked and unchecked baggage under EU law. The Court found that such charges are permitted for checked baggage, but not allowed for hand luggage. 

The case concerned the compatibility with EU law of a Spanish provision, which obliged air carriers to carry baggage free of charge. The applicable EU law provisions are Arts 22 and 23 of the Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008, which establish the pricing freedom of air carriers and the transparency of the charges imposed to passengers. Air carriers have to include in the ticket price all charges that are unavoidable at the time of the booking. Additional services against charge should be offered to passengers on an opt-in basis and be adequately explained. Therefore, the core of the case was whether baggage fees are unavoidable.

The CJEU first underlined the purpose of the provisions, which is to enable price comparison by consumers. It then observed that nowadays airlines apply different pricing practices as to checked baggage, an economic reality that has to be taken into account. There are tickets at lower prices, which do not include checked baggage and some passengers prefer to travel this way to save money. As a result, the price of checked baggage does not represent unavoidable cost for passengers. In addition, handling checked baggage entails extra cost and responsibility for the air carrier. Therefore, additional fees for checked baggage are allowed under EU law.  

Nevertheless, the same is not valid for hand luggage, which contains necessary personal items of the passenger. Therefore, the ability to carry such luggage on board is a necessary aspect of air travel.  Besides, in that case, the item is not entrusted to the air carrier and no additional service is offered to the passenger. Thus, EU law does not permit additional charges for hand luggage.

It is also noteworthy, that the Court based its distinction between checked und unchecked baggage on the 1999 Montreal Convention too, which foresees different liability rules for each category of items (Αrt. 17 II).

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